The Blog

Are You Passing on Your Own Fears and Phobias to Your Children?

When we have children, we need to be very careful about how we react when we're in their presence because we will invariably pass on our fear to them.

Reports in the news that there will be a significant increase in the number of house spiders in our homes over the next few weeks and months will no doubt be met with horror by many.

Good news for those of us who hate flies and the germs they spread, and good news also for my cat who loves chasing and eating them!

Not such good news though for those of us who fear spiders or worse - actually have a phobia of spiders. I'm talking about common everyday harmless spiders here, not something like a black widow or a funnel-web spider, which are dangerous and therefore should be feared. Fear of dangerous spiders is entirely rational.

When we have children, we need to be very careful about how we react when we're in their presence because we will invariably pass on our fear to them.

Childhood fears live long into adulthood

When I was about three years old, I was out playing in the garden and I came across a frog. I was curious so I picked it up and went to show my mother. When she saw what was in my hand, she screamed the place down, ran inside and shut the door.

I remember banging on the door, screaming and crying for her to let me in. I was terrified and this fear of frogs lived with me long into adulthood.

I finally dealt with it when I was doing my therapy training because of course we all have to take therapy ourselves and deal with all of our emotional issues before qualifying.

The interesting thing is that, prior to therapy, I wasn't aware of where my fear had come from. It was only during the process that I was able to remember this long-forgotten incident and I finally understood my fear, and was able to rationalise it and get over it.

I find the same in most of my clients. Their fears are invariably linked to an event or events in their childhood, and some can remember the incident but most can't.

How Alexis discovered the cause of her flying phobia

Alexis had struggled for the last 20 years with a phobia of flying. At the age of eight, she was going on holiday with her parents when the plane had to make an emergency landing. No one was hurt but she was terrified.

Fast forward two decades and Alexis got a promotion at work, which meant that she would need to work in the Amsterdam office at least twice a month.

But, not only could she not board a plane, she couldn't even get into the taxi to take her to the airport. On several occasions, the taxi turned up and she was literally paralysed in her hallway, unable to move. The taxi would eventually leave and she would miss her flight.

Alexis either had to resolve this phobia or turn down her promotion.

During her breakthrough session, Alexis was able to relive her childhood experience in a controlled manner. It transpired that her fear wasn't due to the incident itself but rather to her mother's screaming.

She remembered being told that the plane had to land and she wasn't afraid because the staff seemed really calm, and in fact the landing was just a precaution because a warning light had come on in the cockpit. The plane landed normally.

As the plane descended, her mother started screaming and she remembered her saying something like "we're going to die", and this terrified her. She had never seen her mother afraid before and had never heard her scream. Her mother refused to get on another plane and they went home.

In fact her mother never boarded a plane again.

Alexis was finally able to understand and rationalise why she was so afraid - she was actually afraid of her mother's fear and not her own. As a result, she was able to rationalise her phobia.

Of course, the first few times she flew, she was still afraid but she was able to deal with her fear. Now she is flying regularly. She still doesn't enjoy it but fear of it no longer controls her life.

Remember the impact your behaviour has on children

Events which happen in our childhood can remain with us forever and can affect our lives long into adulthood. It is important to deal with our negative emotions, fears and phobias, just for ourselves, in order to live a happy and successful life but it is particularly important to ensure that we do not pass on our fears and phobias to our children.

I specialise in helping people to overcome their fears and phobias. To find out more and book a one-to-one session, please email me at